Making the Grades
Abraham Lincoln appears to be the politician of the hour in Hollywood with three films about him in the last couple of years: The Conspirator, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Abraham Lincoln vs. The Zombies. Fortunately the newest release, simply titled Lincoln, runs in the vein of The Conspirator and not the supernatural.
Daniel Day-Lewis takes on the role of America’s 16th president during the bleak and bitter days of the Civil War. With the body count steadily rising thanks to the brutal battles fought in the mud and stench of the combat zone, Lincoln is eager to stop the bloodshed. But he is just as interested in ensuring the eradication of slavery. To that end he adamantly pursues the passage of the 13th Amendment designed to abolish the practice of slave ownership.
Most of the Democrats in the House (Lee Pace, Peter McRobbie) are staunchly against the constitutional change. And even some of Lincoln’s own cabinet members question the wisdom in trying to push through the amendment, urging him instead to focus on ending the fighting. But during the final days of his first four years in office, Lincoln insists that Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) and others with clout in the Republican Party (Tommy Lee Jones, David Costabile) help secure votes for the crucial ballot.
Meanwhile on the White House domestic front, Lincoln faces personal and family difficulties. His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field) still mourning the loss of their son Willie, is given to angry outbursts, crying fits and excruciating headaches. As well, she feels the disapproval of the eastern politicians and their society wives, and is prone to excessive spending as a way to compensate. At the end of the semester, the Lincoln’s son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) returns from school with plans to join the army despite his parents’ objections. At times, it seems to be more than one individual can bear.
While brief but graphic depictions of the war make it onto the screen, along with unnecessary profanities (including the strong sexual expletive), the dominant conflicts in this script take place in the Congressional chambers and private rooms of the White House. Strong performances from a large cast of seasoned actors coupled with a powerful script that revolves around the clashes fought off the battlefield gives audiences a very personal insight into this Union leader and this decisive turning point in American history. Best suited for older teens and adults, Lincoln is an inspiring political tale of the backwoods lawyer who rose to the country’s highest office in an era that appears fitted just for him.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Lincoln.
Lincoln asks whether we choose to be born or are fitted to times in which we are born. What do you think? Could someone else have accomplished the same achievements as Lincoln?
How does Lincoln deal with his grief in comparison to his wife? Why does he feel he has to maintain a more stoic approach to the loss? Why does he encourage Mary to put on a happy face? What extra challenges does the President have to deal with because of his home life?
What does Lincoln mean when he says he has determined that prophesying is not profitable?
How is the political process of vote gathering and bill passage portrayed in this script?